Friday, March 19, 2010

Core Clues ported to WFRP

GUMSHOE has a concept called "Core Clues", clues that are so vital to the plot that you literally can't miss them. Whatever else you think of GUMSHOE, there is something very nice about knowing that a fluke bad die roll can't derail the plot and make the players spin their wheels for hours without a lead.

Let's face it, even when players get all the clues without the dice ever hosing them, there's still a good chance they'll misinterpret those clues, chase a red herring or accuse the wrong NPC, argue with the other players, or decide "my character wouldn't try to solve this mystery or pursue that clue". We've all seen situations where some player gets a wild idea and runs off tilting a windmills. What the GM thinks is crystal clear, turns out to be opaque to the players, and now he has to improvise some windmill stats. :)

Today, at the FFG forums, someone was asking about search checks in WFRP 3rd Ed. They were converting a 2nd Ed adventure, that relied on a lot of "A difficult search roll will reveal..." statements. I started typing up a reply about how it all depends on the nature of the clue. That if it's vital to advance the plot and make sure the players have fun, you should just give it to them automatically, but if it's a roll to find some treasure that's not a needed McGuffin, then dice are appropriate.

As I was typing that reply, though, I realized that the mechanics of WFRP are actually perfect for the whole "core clue" concept. You could make all (or the most vital) clue-gathering rolls succeed automatically, not even need a single success to get the info. Then, you just come up with some fun benefits for Boons, Sigmar's Comet or the "triple hammer line", and some nasty disadvantages for the Banes and Chaos Stars.

Here's an example of how it might play out:

The PCs are searching a nobleman's personal library, trying to see if there's any damning evidence of his guilt in some previous crime. The GM has decided that yes, there's some personal correspondence with his co-conspirator tucked behind some books. Without this bit of info, the players are unlikely to call out the nobleman, and will probably never connect the dots to the co-conspirator. Instead the game would bog down as they argue amongst themselves about whether or not he's guilty.

So the GM decides that any search roll will find the main clue, that being the letters behind the book on the shelf. However, a roll of Observation + Int is still called for, with the following possible effects based on the other symbols rolled:
  • Boon: You also find a loaded pistol resting out-of-sight and above your head on top of the same shelving unit. Taking it would be theft, but it would also prevent the sinister nobleman from using it against you later.
  • Bane: The household servants overhear your search, or notice that you've moved things around. This raises their suspicions of you. Any social rolls vs the staff or residents of the manor are now penalized by 1 misfortune die.
  • Chaos Star: The nobleman himself comes home early and walks right in on you. Everyone in the scene takes a point of Stress. He knows you're on to him. Since you've been ransacking his office, he'd be in his rights to grab the pistol from above the shelf and arrest or shoot you. It'd be foolish and dangerous, but within his rights as a nobleman, so depending on how many PCs are present, he just might do it.

1 comment:

rbbergstrom said...

The tangent / aside about Savage Worlds has been moved to a different post.